Why I Need Paper

Artist: Chemiko
Instagram: @bleu.chem
This image is in Issue Three courtesy of the artist as a 4x5 print.

I don’t remember when I stopped reading books under the cover of quilts and night. I started with Little House on the Prairie, as almost all the evangelical girls of my1990’s did; they were the only non-religious literature allowed. The story of Ma and Pa and Mary and Laura was secular sure, but they themselves were religious and so the books sort of counted for the Great Library of God.

After I finished them I moved on to The Happy Hollisters, my flashlight shining on the thick ragged edged pages until one week or perhaps month I slowed, reading fewer minutes each night, skipping a day or two. Then I stopped completely. I suppose if you could reading Russian textbooks in university you could make the argument I continued my late night rendezvous with books in bed well into adulthood. Still, the intention was never the same as it was in those hazy years between eight and fourteen, and that intention was the one all children unintentionally set whenever they open a novel: to know a book and thus be known by it.

I have tried time and time again to pinpoint what exactly it is that makes reading such magic. I have come to the conclusion that it must be the paper. To turn a page is to, to reference that childhood series by Edward Packard and R. A. Montgomery, to choose your own adventure again and again. It is to employ the body, the fingertips, to say, “this story, once more. Now again. It is you I will not quit, us to the end, again.”

Earlier this year I took an accidental break from publishing new poetry online. I couldn’t figure out what was keeping me from wanting to read other’s work posted on platforms like Instagram and Medium. I love social media for its ability to democratize writing spaces that have, for far too long, been dominated by the voices of the wealthy, the white, and the male. However, I found that every time I tried to read something shared there I would pull away uninspired. I finally realized what the issue was. I missed paper. I missed turning pages and reading something which had been edited and pored over by a dozen people before me. I missed long form and essays and poems with meter. I missed the amount of energy and work that goes into creating a product that goes to print. I missed the effort. So imagine how excited I was to come across tiny indie journal Unvael, which just sent its third issue to press. 

Unvael is a periodic journal showcasing emerging artists around the world. It includes art by sculptors, architects, photographers, painters, and chefs. Curator and founder Michael Ash Smith states that the journal is part coffee table book part magazine and that’s a perfect description for it. It is definitely the kind of paper one can read by morning light or magic hour light or, if you’re me, by flashlight. Each preordered issue comes with prints suitable for framing, making the price a steal. If you order a copy feel free to use my contributor discount (I have a poem in Issue Three) for 10% off. You can purchase it here, and the code is @sarahrosangela.